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    Headstall
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Sidewinder - 10. Chapter 10 Praises for Blue

Ecclesiastes: 4:9-11

Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow, but woe is him who is alone, and has not another to help him up.

                                                                                                                                                                                  ***

Praises for Blue

 

 

Night moved in and they traded old stories each knew by heart. Boone was feeling better than he had in a long time, and not only body-wise. Will, once always a presence in their lives, had become a distant shadow. Eventually, though, he tired and crawled into his bedroll. Coy did the same after feeding the fire to ward off the night chill.

As they lay side by side a few feet from one another, quiet settled in, but Boone had something on his mind. “Coy? You awake?”

“Yep. You need something?’

He heard the rustle of blankets. “No, don’t get up. I’m fine… peaceful, truth be told, and I don’t need you checking on me all night long. I know that’s what you been doing.”

“So… so what if I do? You almost died, Boone, and fevers come back, and it ain’t no chore to keep an eye on you.”

“I know, but if you’re not careful, you’re going to end up sicker than me.”

“What in tarnation you talking about?”

Boone heard another rustle as Coy shifted toward him. He did the same, thankful his hip could now handle the position. “I’m talking about you buzzing around like a summertime bee since Blue trotted into your camp. Did you sleep at all those days you looked for me?”

“No… of course not… the moon was bright enough I could search through the night… and you wouldn’t have slept either if it was me who was missing.”

“No, I wouldn’t have, but Coy, you can now. You’re plumb tuckered out, and your eyes are sunk into your head like I ain’t never seen before.”

“It’s been hard to sleep,” Coy admitted softly.

“I know that, but you have to stop worrying for me. You’ve about got me back to normal, and time will take care of the rest. Just some aches and pains now, like after getting throwed from an ornery colt, so let me do some of the stuff around here. I’ll get up in the morning and take care of the fire and breakfast. I can get the water just fine, and I surely can check on the horses.”

“Your ribs still hurting?”

“Not as much… more they’re just tender now… not enough to make me useless.”

“I got some snares to check before sunup, and you shouldn’t be hauling water,” Coy protested, showing the stubbornness Boone expected.

“I know where you set them, so I can check the snares and skin a rabbit if one’s caught. You think I can’t carry a pot or two of water?”

“No… I suppose you can sure enough,” Coy said with reluctance.

“I know I can, so you stay put and sleep as long as you’re needing to. I ain’t going to die tonight, Coy, I promise.”

“I’ll hold you to that, but you didn’t see what you looked like when I found you.”

“No, suppose not, but I know how I’m feeling, thanks to you, and I can see what you look like now. You’re plumb wore out.”

“You about done jawing at me?”

“Yep.”

“Good… you can check the snares and cook breakfast. That make you happy?”

“Yep.”

A couple of minutes later Boone heard soft snores coming from the man beside him, and he smiled to himself at the familiar sound. He soon followed suit.

 

Coy did as promised and stayed in his bedroll while Boone took care of the chores. It felt good to be useful again, especially when he returned to camp with a skinned and gutted rabbit. It went into the Dutch oven with a few burdock roots he’d dug up, some salt pork for needed fat because rabbit meat was lean and a body needed fat, and some beans that had been soaking overnight. Perfect cowboy’s breakfast, complete with hardtack biscuits cooked alongside a chunk of bacon fat in the iron skillet.

When Coy got up, he looked much better. “Smells too good around here to stay asleep.”

“Medium-sized rabbit in the pot, with beans and a few roots, and some fried biscuits. The other snares were empty, but I reset the one. Did you sleep through the night?”

“Mostly,” Coy answered, avoiding eye contact.

“You checked on me, didn’t you,” Boone accused, grimacing at his friend.

“Just the once, but only cause you cried out.”

“I did? Damn… sorry for that. I’ve been having some godawful dreams.”

“I know. You had them with the fever too, but you were more just whimpering then. You’ve cried out every night since, though.”

“So that’s why you kept checking on me?”

“Told you… fevers come back, like they did with my little brother… and the second one finished him off.”

Now Boone got his friend’s fear. “That was different, Coy. Your ma said the fever took a lot of folks back then.”

“Fever’s fever. I ain’t no doc, but I know fever,” he said stubbornly. “Anyways, you weren’t flushed or hot, and you quieted down after I spoke to you. I went back to sleep right after. I’m going to the river to wash up and clean my teeth. Need any water brought back?”

“No, got enough for now… did my washing up already.”

Boone watched him go, feeling foolish for giving the man heck when he was the one waking him up at night. It was just like Coy not to say anything. He had to remember his friend had lost three brothers and a pa before they even met, and a ma and a brother since. Still, he did look better than he had yesterday.

 

They were eating breakfast when Boone asked Coy what his plans might be if he didn’t like what he saw with his ‘look see,’ but couldn’t pin him down. As it stood, he would ride with Boone to check out the town and tracts of land for sale in the area, and that was all he’d say. Boone couldn’t help feeling Coy was holding something back. Was he testing his sincerity about wanting him around? Despite how things seemed, had they lost the trust they used to have? Or was Coy just going to stick around long enough to make sure Boone didn’t need him?

He finally gave up and changed the subject. No sense chewing on a bone with no marrow in it, but he knew the man well enough to sense he had something on his mind.

“So, tell me how you managed to lead Blue, Daisy, and Buttercup while riding Mouse? Did you tie them in a line?”

“I didn’t lead them at all. I rode Buttercup instead of Mouse to keep Blue close, and I knew Mouse wouldn’t run off on me, and Daisy would never run off on Mouse.”

“You’re a mite smarter than I thought,” Boone teased.

“Should have left you on the river bank,” Coy returned quickly, and Boone found it funny, joking like they used to, but he saw the instant regret on Coy’s face. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. Rescuing me was plenty smart,” he said with a cheeky grin.

Coy visibly relaxed, and returned it. “I ain’t as smart as Blue, though. I swear he was looking for you right along with me. He’d graze, but stayed close to the river most of the time.”

Boone laughed. “I’m not so sure he appreciated me enough to want to find me.”

“Thought you said he liked you?” Coy asked with a straight face, but Boone wasn’t buying it.

“Yep… I did say that, cause there was a time I thought he did, but he’s been a thorn in my side ever since we took him away from Paint. I think he blames me. For leaving Buttercup too.”

“That may be, but he hung close after I found you, and he pulled the travois up without me doing much coaxing. I’m telling you, that mule’s damn smart for sure and certain. I was fit to be tied, but he never took a wrong step, and he didn’t move off till I had you wrapped up and a fire built… and even then he didn’t go very far until after your fever broke.”

Boone glanced over to where the Blue and the horses were grazing. “Well, I’ll be damned. You make him sound like a faithful old dog.”

“Yep. He acted just like my old hound would have. Kept me company while I waited for you to show signs you wouldn’t be needing a wooden box.”

Once again Boone was struck by what his friend went through for him. “So, I guess he does like me after all.”

“I’d say so. Maybe he felt bad for hauling you into the river.”

Boone stared at Coy open-mouthed until Coy started to snicker, and then they both ended up laughing like they used to. Coy’s ma used to say the pair of them made a worse racket than two possums in the night.

“Think I’m giving him too much credit?” Coy asked when he could finally speak.

Boone couldn’t do anything but nod before laughter overtook him again. It was worth a little bit of rib pain to just enjoy the moment.

The day was a good one. Boone cleaned and oiled the tack with his store of neatsfoot oil while Coy did some fishing, and for supper they had enough trout they couldn’t finish it. Conversation was easy for them again, and Coy listened while Boone talked about the order he would do things when he bought some land. Coy was interested for sure, but he more listened than talked.

He did ask a question now and then, though, encouraging Boone to open up about how he’d always wanted to build a log cabin, so finding land with suitable trees was foremost for him. So was a good spot to build it. He also wanted to be close to a water source, one that would keep a well filled and fresh, as well as being able to keep an eye on his stock. None of this was exactly new to Coy, yet he appeared to want to hear it all again, so Boone obliged.

He also needed a food cache where food could be stored safely and at a cool temperature, maybe built into a hillside. Hobbling worked well enough, but he wanted corrals for horses, and for a milk cow and a few beef cattle. He’d need pens for chickens and pigs, and a barn he could keep oats and corn in, as well as a place for tools like a plow, harness, axes and such. It would also have to serve as well as a shelter for animals in bad weather.

He was beginning to consider that Blue might make a good plowhorse if he worked with him enough. That way he wouldn’t need to be feeding a team over winter, and he was smart enough to know he shouldn’t bite off more than he could chew in the first year. It was one of the few times Coy offered an opinion, and it was that Blue would be able to pull a plow as well as any saddle horse. It made Boone chuckle… the gray mule had a supporter in the man.

He finished up saying he expected to work hard, but he wanted to enjoy life too. He wanted to fish and hunt and ride… explore and camp when he could. He searched his friend’s face for a reaction to the end of his longwinded talking, and what he saw was a small smile that was unreadable.

“You make it sound so nice, Boone.”

“I do?”

“Yep, and I hope you get every bit of it.”

“Would be nice.”

The night sounds took over, and before long a sigh came from the man across from him.

“When do you want to ride out from here?”

“If I said tomorrow would you throw a fit?”

It took a while for Coy to answer. “As long as you can ride, I see no harm in it. The weather’s good, and I can tell you’re itching.”

“I am, but I don’t want to rush. You went through a lot, so maybe we should rest another day or two.”

“I don’t need rest… so you can stop fretting over my sunk-in eyes.”

“Hey, I said they were sunk in… they’re not anymore.”

“Then there’s no reason we can’t get back on the trail.”

“Fine with me, but I’m not sure we should go the same way I did before.”

“Why not?”

“Cause there’s a missing piece to the trail, and I didn’t see a good spot to cross the river. We might consider fording right here and following along the other side.”

“We don’t want to be doing that, Boone. There’s a big loop to the south that eats up a day or more to get around it. You didn’t come down that river in a straight line.”

“That so? I knew it winded along a bunch, but I reckon a day’s travel is too much to lose.”

“We can take your trail and find a way further north of that spot to cross the river. Same difference.”

“Yeah, likely we can and that’s what I was going to do, but I swear I ain’t going near no cliff that overhangs the water. It happens ground doesn’t always stay put.”

Coy laughed. “Good to see you can learn. Ready to turn in?”

“Sure am, once I’ve had a good draining.”

They walked away from camp together and pissed side by side. The night air was beginning to chill, and Boone shivered. “I’m really thankful you followed after me, Coy.”

After a long sigh, the man took his time in speaking… long enough Boone thought he’d said something wrong. “Wasn’t sure I was doing the best thing a time or two, but I reckon I made the right decision after all. Lord knows what I’d be doing if I hadn’t taken your trail,” he said in a sad kind of tone.

Boone pondered what might be behind the words as his stream finished and he buttoned up. Again, he had the feeling Coy had something weighing heavy on his mind. “Well, I’m pretty sure I’d be doing nothing right now if you hadn’t.”

“It’s a pretty spot here, don’t you think?” Coy said, changing the subject away from Boone’s near death.

“Kind of familiar, being alongside a river.”

“Lot better land here… good grazing, bigger trees, and a lot more game… and real peaceful… the river runs quiet.” A lone coyote howled a few miles off as if to argue his words, and they both chuckled.

“Might be he wants us to move along and stop taking his rabbits.”

“Nah, that sounds too lonesome to me. He’s calling for a mate, more like.”

The howl sounded again, and Boone had to agree. It was a lonely call for sure, and gave him another shiver for a different kind of chill. Now that he had him back, what was he going to do if his friend decided not to stick around?

 

 

*

Thanks for reading... I hope you enjoyed this latest installment. Please share your thoughts if you can. Who'd have thought Blue would be anything but a pain in the ass. The people in these times relied heavily on their animals, and those bonds could be the difference between life and death..

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1 minute ago, Wesley8890 said:

A pretty dramaless chapter. Thank you the boys needed some downtime.

You're right, Wes, it was free of drama for a change. It's almost like they were getting re-acquainted again. Things were the same... but different. :unsure:  Thanks, buddy... cheers! :hug: 

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10 minutes ago, dughlas said:

This chapter was restful. Reckon they needed a spell to heal before moving on.

I reckon they did, dugh. There's been a lot of trauma in their young lives, and after a lengthy separation, they are almost feeling each other out again. 'Restful' is a good word, and Boone mentions he was feeling peaceful. :)  Thanks, bro! :hug: 

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1 minute ago, Onim said:

Loving the 'slow dance' they're doing with each other...Coy is a lot more insightful, whereas Boone is a "let's do this"...they'll be good together, for sure!! Another awesome chapter, with each chapter fleshing these two interesting characters out more! Even got me thinking about giving Blue a hug...😄:heart: 

Hello, sweet lady. :)  I agree... I think Coy is finally coming into his own, now that he is out from under his brother's influence. I see him as thoughtful... I see Boone that way too, but Coy is more measured and cautious. I admire that even though he wasn't sure about following Boone, he realized he had to do something. So he got over his pride and made the decision. Do they complement one another? I'm with you... I think so too. 

I'm pleased you want to give Blue a hug... all things considered, he deserves one. :D  Oh, and I love how you describe the interactions between Boone and Coy as a slow dance. :yes:  Cheers, my friend, and stay safe. :hug:  

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What a truly wonderful chapter; the emotions that you evoke with your writing are so strong and sometimes truly unexpected.  Can't wait to see what happens when they get back on the trail.

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50 minutes ago, centexhairysub said:

What a truly wonderful chapter; the emotions that you evoke with your writing are so strong and sometimes truly unexpected.  Can't wait to see what happens when they get back on the trail.

Thanks, centex! This means a lot to me... I'm all about evoking emotions without beating you over the head with them. I loved the conversations these men had in this chapter... there is some uncertainty, but their connection is still so easy to see. Maybe they'll talk more on the trail. :)  Thanks again, buddy... this made me feel really good. :D  Cheers! :hug: 

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Well I think that after the River adventure. Some much need down time is most certainly needed! And where is this story going, to the land of happyness we can but hope but we will have to see!

Good chapter:thankyou:

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Great chapter, I have so much hope for Boone & Coy. Please don’t disappoint us!! 😎

Also, I was recently listening to Joni Mitchell’s River and now I constantly hear that song in my head when I read all these river scenes. 

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50 minutes ago, Albert1434 said:

Well I think that after the River adventure. Some much need down time is most certainly needed! And where is this story going, to the land of happyness we can but hope but we will have to see!

Good chapter:thankyou:

Yes, we'll have to see, Albert. :)  These slower chapters give me a chance to reveal more of the characters and advance the story, while giving readers a chance to just connect with the emotions without all the drama. Thanks, buddy... happy to hear you liked it. Cheers! :hug: 

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51 minutes ago, spikey582 said:

That's a telling line right there.  We've got two such fine young men doing the exact same thing, and I argue that they already have found theirs and in fact did so years ago. Look how they've interacted these last couple chapters.  They are a couple in all but name, and of course in... uhhh... consumption.  People obviously saw it, Ma and Will for instance, hence some of the things they said.  Like I said previously, Boone interpreted that punch the wrong way.  Does anyone seeing Coy chasing any ladies? Nope.  But he did spend days chasing after Boone and then nursing him back to health.

As others have mentioned, there's more to be said.  Coy hasn't fully disclosed his feelings just yet.  Boone hasn't said everything just yet either.  But they will eventually.  Or perhaps they won't cause they're damn cowboys.  

Damn cowboys! :rofl:  Hey, spikey! This is a journey for both men... and I'm not only talking about the trail. Navigating love and/or friendship is difficult even today... so I imagine it was even more so back then. I like your point about others seeing something between Coy and Boone. The question is, are they seeing Boone's feelings for Coy? Or something else? I suspect Ma Diamond and Will saw a closeness, but likely saw clearly through Boone. But the sheriff... he's a question mark. Does he see friendship... or something more? Boone thinks Coy is confused, and he's the cause... do we trust he knows his friend after five years? And Coy... god fearing Coy... is he torn because he doesn't want to hurt his friend? 

I think we need more conversations... and yes, full disclosure, but for now, it's enough for Boone he has his friend back. :) 

Thanks, buddy... appreciate the comment and hearing your thoughts. Cheers! :hug:  

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46 minutes ago, Rolfe45 said:

Great chapter, I have so much hope for Boone & Coy. Please don’t disappoint us!! 😎

Also, I was recently listening to Joni Mitchell’s River and now I constantly hear that song in my head when I read all these river scenes. 

Hey, Rolfe! Thank you... you are not alone in rooting for Coy and Boone to be a couple. All I can tell you is happiness comes in many forms, and I think you'll find the story satisfying by the time we reach the end. 

I love when a story brings to mind a song for a reader, and River is such a beautiful, haunting one... I've been listening to Joni my whole life, and if I remember right, it's off her album "Blue," which is kind of ironic, given the name of this chapter. :) Thanks for reminding me of it... I'm going to search it out and have a listen. Cheers! :hug: 

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56 minutes ago, rockycs said:

Good Lord.  Rabbit, rabbit and more rabbit.  Those boys must dream about a chicken or two and a few eggs!!!  I wonder if scurvy was an issue then?  My recollection is it takes at least a month without vitamin C for scurvy to take hold.

Hey, Rocky! Lol. They did have some prairie chicken too, and Boone had grouse, snake, prairie chicken, and rabbit on his journey, and fish is also a main part of their diet. :P  In summer, traveling alone, you wouldn't want to bring down a larger animal like a deer because it would go to waste in the heat, unless you took the time to smoke it.

I'm pleased you brought up scurvy. There are lots of foods that have vitamin C... and in this chapter they have burdock root in their stew, which contains about ten percent vitamin C. It's also in things like peppers and chilis, wild blueberries, black berries, apples, potatoes, cattail roots, etc. There are also many wild greens that pioneers were well aware of and foraged for. :)  I did a lot of research for this story. :yes: 

Thanks, buddy... I love getting a chance to delve deeper and talk about this stuff... cheers! :hug: 

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2 hours ago, Bard Simpson said:

Curiouser and curiouser. Are we any closer to knowing what is going on in Coy's mind?

Coy is along for the ride to check out the denizens of Larkspur. One positive, that he may possibly settle there, came from his reaction to Boone's vision: "you make it sound so nice, Boone".

That's a step up from Coy's earlier disinterest. But now, Coy is probably, for the first time, considering Boone's dream in a different way. That of spending a life near a contented Boone, living the dream, as opposed to facing the prospect of living the solitary life of a cobwboy, or worse.

I suspect that Coy is waking up to the fact, that he has spent many years happily tagging along, doing essentially what Boone was doing. Boone was always the dreamer and the motivator. And while Coy didn't think much of Boone's plans to settle and farm, to begin with, the fact is, that Coy isn't driven much by any other goal either. 

Boone's dream is sounding better to Coy, each day, particularly if Coy can keep Boone in his world, and the lonely cry of the wolf, from his door.

Love this, Bard. I especially like how you are seeing Coy... that he isn't driven by any other goal at the moment. He's already admitted he wasn't a panner at heart, and raised on a struggling farm, it hasn't held as much appeal to him. He's done cowboying, and maybe that is an option, but for now he is aimless, and consequently, his eyes are open, and he's considering. He finally has the chance to think for himself as a mature man... out from under the influence of anyone else. He has the opportunity to breathe now that he knows Boone is healthy. Are we getting closer to knowing what's in Coy's mind? Of course, but like in real life, it sometimes takes time. Will he make a decision to settle in Larkspur? I doubt he could give us any kind of answer yet. Boone certainly doesn't know what Coy will end up doing, but yeah, "you make it sound so nice, Boone" is an interesting comment to make. 

As far as the wolf's cry, loneliness is a part of life... for man and beast. :unsure:

Thanks, Buddy. I enjoyed this. Cheers! :hug:  

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Yep - a very good chapter with a few "telling" points for both our boys. I'm optimistically seeing a tighter bond developing from the near death experience they both felt!

Those kinds of experiences have a way of making everyone take a step back and reconsider what really matters and what is important in life!! 

Great great writing Gary!!  Thanks, David.

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